Ed Rush resigns amid bounty issue in Pac-12 basketball

Ed Rush, Pac-12 coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, resigned Thursday, three days after the league acknowledged it had investigated him for challenging several officials at the conference tournament by placing a “bounty” on the first one to issue a technical foul to Arizona coach Sean Miller.

Rush had the job less than a year. His departure was widely seen as inevitable after CBSSports.com and The Seattle Times reported Monday afternoon that he told half a dozen officials at the league tournament that he was upset at the lack of bench decorum by some coaches, particularly Miller, and he was offering either $5,000 or an all-expenses-paid trip — CBSSports.com said he mentioned Cancun as a destination — if they would discipline Miller.

Late in a heated Pac-12 semifinal between UCLA and Arizona, Miller was assessed a technical foul by official Michael Irving — his first in more than a year — and subsequently fined $25,000 for confronting an official and then a league staffer in a hallway. The Bruins won, 66-64.

“I would like to thank the Pac-12 for giving me the opportunity to lead a group of officials who are working so hard to make the Pac-12 the best-officiated conference in college basketball,” Rush said in part in a statement released by the league. “My first and highest concerns have always been the integrity of the game of basketball and the craft of officiating.”

Rush, a former longtime NBA official and supervisor, was hired to shepherd an influx of new officiating talent into the league. But he had a stormy tenure, cutting back assignments of some veteran officials and, according to sources, demonstrating an abrasive style that sometimes included name-calling.

Dick Cartmell of the Tri-Cities, a five-time veteran of the Final Four, told The Seattle Times on Monday he had submitted his resignation from the league, citing “personal differences with the direction of the officiating program.” Cartmell plans to continue officiating for other Western leagues.

In response to inquiries from the two media outlets, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged Monday that the league had investigated Rush’s challenge in Las Vegas to officials but had concluded the remarks were made “in jest” and there were no improprieties. CBSSports.com reported that Rush had made the statements in two separate meetings.

Since the reports, Scott had come under fire for his backing of Rush and there were widespread calls for Rush to step down. Scott maintained Monday to The Times that after the league’s interviews with its officials, “It was clear that the point Ed Rush was trying to make was about coaches’ behavior and decorum generally.”

Rush had been a consultant to the league officiating program since 2007. Scott said a search for a new coordinator would be part of a regular review of the program.